Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.30.11

I hope you all had nice Memorial Day weekends. It was really hot here in central Ohio, which unfortunately kept us inside for most of the day. My little boys play hard, and after just half an hour in the sun their faces were beet-red. Joe’s aunt’s pool isn’t quite swim-ready yet, which was a shame, because yesterday would have been the perfect day to spend in the water. As it was, after a feast of hamburgers and fresh fruit and homemade ice cream and peanut butter pie, we retreated inside to watch movies and nap. It was a lovely day, all in all.

I didn’t cook dinner last night because we were all stuffed from our afternoon cookout, so I’m posting the week’s meal plan today. Most of these meals are quick ones that won’t heat up the kitchen too much – which is just the kind of cooking I like to do when the weather starts to warm up.

Tuesday: Black bean tortilla pie, Mexican sour cream rice. This meal is carrying over from last weekend – I can’t remember why I didn’t make it.

Wednesday: Rosemary ranch chicken, foil packet potatoes. I’m going to try adding ranch dressing mix to my usual version of these potatoes (thanks, Jessie, for the idea!).

Thursday: Bacon and egg quesadillas, leftover Mexican sour cream rice

Friday: Chicken tender melts and fries

Saturday: Spicy bacon spaghetti

Sunday: Pizza ring. I didn’t get the chance to make this when it was on our meal plan a couple of weeks ago, and I really can’t wait to try it – I think the boys (especially Andrew) are going to love it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rosemary Ranch Chicken

Sorry I was quiet this week, but I’m back today with a recipe that you really must make for your Memorial Day cookout this weekend. If you’re anything like me, your favorite way to prepare chicken on the grill is to marinate it in Italian dressing. That’s how my mom made grilled chicken, and that’s how I’ve always done it. It’s simple and delicious and I was convinced that there couldn’t be anything better.

That is, until I saw this recipe. I first saw it on Ann’s blog, where she shared the recipe under the post title The Most Delicious Chicken in the Whole Wide World. How could I not try it after that?

This is honestly the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had. My whole family was blown away by the flavors. It’s succulent and amazing and it really may be the most delicious chicken in the whole wide world. You should totally try it this weekend and see for yourself. :)

Rosemary Ranch Chicken
ever-so-slightly adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste (optional)
Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves or tenders (I used tenders because that’s what I had)

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I marinated it overnight).

2. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken until no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.23.11

Last week really got away from me. Typically I have my meal plans for any given week ready to go by Wednesday of the previous week, but I didn't finish this week's meal plan until Saturday night. That meant that I utilized my cookbooks and magazines more than I normally do -- and that's something I'd like to do more often, for sure.

Monday: Sloppy cubanos, sweet potato fries. I'm working on trimming down my magazine collection, and I found this recipe in an old issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. We tried Rachael's recipe for Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes last week, and loved them, and it made me eager to try more of her sloppy joe variations (in addition to these, which I already know we love).

Tuesday: Tortellini primavera

Wednesday: Pork and vegetable stir fry with cashew rice. The boys have been obsessed with cashews lately, and they always love rice and anything Asian, so I think this recipe will go over well in our house.

Thursday: Egg tostada frittata. It must be Rachael Ray week around here! I knew I'd be making this the second I saw it on an episode of 30 Minute Meals.

Friday: Bacon- and cheese-stuffed grilled BBQ chicken (an idea I got from Carrie), buttered noodles

Saturday: Black bean tortilla pie, Mexican sour cream rice

Sunday: Lasagna buns. Lasagna in sandwich form? Sign me up!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monte Cristos

Who doesn’t love a Monte Cristo? Deli meats and cheese sandwiched between thick bread, dipped and fried like French toast, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with a side of sweet jam – my mouth waters just thinking about it.

I’ve only made these sandwiches a few times at home, but they’re always one of my favorite things to order for brunch or lunch at restaurants. When I have made them, I’ve always made a classic version with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, and raspberry jam on the side. I had a few ideas about how I could play with this sandwich to make it a little different and special, though, which I decided to try when I made them recently.

Basically, rather than serving the raspberry jam on the side, I put it right on the sandwich. I also mixed it with a little bit of honey mustard, and it became a spread that was equal parts sweet and tangy, and entirely delicious. I also added bacon to the sandwiches, because I can think of very few food items that aren’t made better by the addition of bacon. My minor little changes resulted in a kicked-up version of this classic sandwich that my whole family really loved.

I’m listing only the ingredients, not the amounts, because they’ll vary according to how many sandwiches you’re making. I used a couple of slices each of turkey and ham, two strips of bacon, and one slice of cheese for each sandwich.

Monte Cristos

Sliced deli ham
Sliced turkey breast
Sliced Swiss cheese
Cooked Bacon
Thick-sliced white or sourdough bread
Eggs, whisked well with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper
Raspberry jam
Honey mustard
Powdered sugar

1. Preheat a griddle to medium-high; coat the surface with butter or cooking spray.

2. To assemble sandwiches, top a slice of bread with ham, turkey, cheese, bacon, and the other slice of bread.

3. Dip the assembled sandwiches, one at a time, in the egg/milk mixture, then immediately transfer to the griddle. Cook until each side is golden brown.

4. Mix together raspberry jam and honey mustard (using more jam than mustard in your mixture) and spread a small amount on each sandwich. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Orange Dreamsicle Smoothies

It’s pretty ironic that I’m sharing this refreshing summery smoothie with you today, since the weather set records this week for being the coldest on record for May in Ohio. We’ve been dealing with temperatures in the 40s all week, and I’m craving sunshine and warm weather like you wouldn’t believe.

I actually made these smoothies back in the beginning of April, when our part of the state was experiencing record high temperatures (Ohio weather is so weird and frustrating sometimes). They were such a refreshing treat for us after an afternoon spent outside playing and doing yard work. They taste exactly like dreamsicles – sweet, tangy, creamy and cool. I’ll be making these smoothies for us a lot!

Orange Dreamsicle Smoothies
adapted from Taste of Home

1 cup milk
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, undrained
1 6-ounce container orange yogurt
Ice cubes
Sweetened whipped cream

In a blender, combine the milk, oranges, and yogurt until well-blended. Add ice cubes until you reach desired slushiness (we like ours pretty frosty). Pour into glasses and top each glass with a dollop of whipped cream.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Shredded buffalo chicken. In a crispy taco shell. Topped with crunchy, cool lettuce and creamy ranch dressing and tons of cheese. I mean, really, what more can I say?

The flavor of these tacos is very similar to that of one of my favorite salads, so I knew I’d love them. I wish I’d had some avocado to add to them, which would have added another delicious flavor dimension, but they were delicious as-is too. And so simple -- I just threw a couple of chicken breasts in the Crock pot before I left for work, topped them with hot sauce, and let dinner make itself.

And dinner made itself very, very delicious.

P.S. These tacos would also be delicious if you made them with these.

Shredded Buffalo Chicken Tacos

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons butter
Hard taco shells
Ranch dressing
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado

1. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Pour hot sauce over chicken and top with butter. Cook on Low heat 6 to 8 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker, shred with two forks, and set aside.

2. Place a small amount of chicken in a taco shell. Top with ranch dressing, cheese, lettuce, and avocado slices.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.16.11

For the first time in a great while, I actually made every single meal on my meal plan last week. This shouldn't be such a huge accomplishment -- I should be doing that every week -- but I'm hoping that this small victory gives me some momentum. There are a couple of meals carrying over from earlier in the month, as well as one returning favorite, but the rest of the meals this week are new recipes that I can't wait to try!

Monday: Smoked sausage pierogi bake. I’m going to finally make it this week, I SWEAR.

Tuesday: Taco rice

Wednesday: Herb and brie omelets, roasted potatoes, grapes

Thursday: Shaved asparagus pizza

Friday: Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes, French fries

Saturday: Crock pot chicken enchiladas

Sunday: Pizza ring

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, today is National Chocolate Chip Day, and what better way to celebrate such an awesome holiday than by making a batch of chocolate chip cookies? I mean, it's almost required, right? This is a holiday that can't be ignored.

This particular version of chocolate chip cookies, which uses vanilla pudding in the mix, just may be our new family favorite. The cookies are so soft and have such a wonderful flavor. I'm almost embarrassed to admit how quickly three dozen of these disappeared from our house! They're simple, delicious, and really special, too.

Here are some other great recipes using chocolate chips to celebrate with today: 

Nutella chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cream cheese vanilla bean muffins

Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3.4 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside.

2. Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add in pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

3. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slight golden and set. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dirt Cake in a Dump Truck

Well hi there! Sorry for disappearing for the better part of a week – I took some time off from work and blogging to celebrate Andrew’s third birthday and Mother’s Day. I also spent a good bit of time relaxing and pampering myself, because I figure I deserve it, and I don’t do it nearly enough! :)

My oldest sweet boy turned three on Tuesday, as I mentioned, and I knew exactly what kind of cake I’d be making for him. I’d had this idea from The Sisters’ Café in the back of my mind ever since I saw it, and I couldn’t wait for Andrew’s birthday so I had an opportunity to make it. Andrew loves trucks more than almost anything, and I just knew he’d love this. He did!

The actual cake was a chocolate dirt cake, topped with the traditional gummy worms. Both the cake and its presentation were very well received by the birthday boy and our guests!

Dirt Cake
inspired by The Sisters’ Café and adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 3.5-ounce packages instant chocolate pudding mix (I used 1 package of milk chocolate and 1 package of dark chocolate fudge)
3 1/2 cups milk
1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
32 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies with chocolate crème filling

1. Chop cookies very fine in food processor.

2. Mix butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large bowl mix milk, pudding, and whipped topping together.

4. Combine pudding mixture and cream mixture together.

5. Layer in your chosen dish, starting with cookies then cream mixture. Repeat layers.

6. Chill until ready to serve.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.9.11

I hope all of you mamas out there had a fantastic Mother's Day yesterday! I know I certainly did. The weather was beautiful, and today looks to be more of the same -- here's hoping it's the beginning of a trend! 

Monday: French dip sandwiches and oven rings -- a meal we enjoyed so much a couple of weeks ago that we're already having it again. 

Tuesday: Bacon broccoli macaroni and cheese, grapes. It’s Andrew’s 3rd birthday, so I’m working as many of his favorite foods into one meal as I can. 

Wednesday: Mexican hot dogs, tortilla chips with hot bean and cheese dip 

Thursday: Strawberry chicken salad sandwiches with bacon, chips 

Friday: Taco pasta bake 

Saturday: Roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes 

Sunday: Cheesy stuffed shells with spicy sausage tomato sauce (from the freezer), breadsticks

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today’s recipe is definitely a new household favorite. I loved these, but I think my husband loved them even more – and that’s really saying a lot, because he’s quite the carnivore and tends to grumble when I serve him vegetarian meals.

In these enchiladas, mashed sweet potatoes are combined with black beans, cheese, and Mexican spices to make a filling that is sweet and savory all at once. They’re topped with not one, but two sauces – fire-roasted tomato enchilada sauce, and a simple sweet corn cream sauce made with canned cream corn and sour cream. They could not be easier, and the finished produced is amazingly delicious.

I adapted this recipe extensively from Emily’s just to fit our budget and tastes, so be sure you check out the original recipe on her blog (and drool over her stunning photos, too!).

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
adapted from Sugar Plum

2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 large or 2 small potatoes), mashed with 1 tablespoon butter
1 can canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can creamed corn
1/2 cup sour cream
1 16-ounce jar fire-roasted tomato enchilada sauce
8-10 flour tortillas
Cilantro and avocado for garnish, if desired

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, stir together sweet potato, black beans, 1 cup cheese, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.

3. Whisk together creamed corn and sour cream in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of the mixture to the sweet potato mixture and set the rest aside.

4. Pour half of the fire-roasted tomato enchilada sauce into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Place about 1/4 cup sweet potato mixture on one side of a tortilla, roll up, and place in baking dish; repeat process with remaining sweet potato mixture and tortillas.

5. Pour reserved sweet corn sauce on top of the tortillas, then drizzle with the remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve enchiladas with cilantro and avocado, if desired.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taco Rice

I first heard about this recipe when my friend Jessie posted about it in one of her weekly meal plans. She mentioned how much she and her husband loved it, and her sentiment was echoed by a bunch of people on Tasty Kitchen, where this recipe was originally posted. I definitely wanted to try it, but I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what it was that people were raving about – what exactly it was that made it so amazing. I mean, it’s taco rice, right? Nothing special.

Except that IT IS. And I think I know what makes it so amazing: It’s the soy sauce. There’s something about the combination of the salty, savory soy sauce with the spicy Mexican seasonings that is just…well, it’s magical. That’s what it is.

I loved the story behind this recipe, too. Apparently a Japanese chef created it for all of the American soldiers stationed in Okinawa in the 1960s. He took the Americans’ love of tacos and combined it with one of the most popular ingredients in Japanese food: rice. And this delicious fusion dish was born.

I promise you will LOVE this one.

Taco Rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups steamed (long grain, instant, or sushi) rice (I used instant cooked in chicken broth)
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and queso blanco or shredded mozzarella for topping

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until the onions are barely soft. Add the ground beef and break it into small chunks.

2. Once the meat is cooked, add the soy sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Let this simmer until the liquid reduces.

3. Spread 1/2 to 1 cup of the steamed rice on each plate. Top with the seasoned beef. Top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa, and finish it off with a dollop of sour cream.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Southwestern Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

It’s pretty clear at this point how much my family loves Mexican food, right? I think it’s probably our favorite cuisine. I personally could eat it every night -- and since Thursday is Cinco de Mayo, this would actually be the perfect week to do that. However, my husband nixed the idea (he could get heartburn, he said -- what a wimp!), so I thought the next best thing would be to share Mexican recipes with you over the next few days.

First up is this Southwestern bacon macaroni and cheese, and wow, is this stuff delicious. The Mexican spices are mixed right into the roux with the flour, which really enhances the flavor. Add in bacon, cheese and a little bit of sour cream, and it’s just impossible to go wrong. I’d intended to add black beans, corn, and green chilies to this too, but I got distracted (as the mother of two little boys, my life is basically all about getting distracted). I think I will do that next time -- but really, this is just perfect as-is. We all loved this one!

Southwestern Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Krista’s Kitchen

1 pound uncooked bow tie pasta
4 center-cut bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
8 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions in boiling salted water. Cook bacon to desired crispness in a large skillet; remove to a paper towel to drain. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from the skillet.

2. Add pepper and onions to skillet and cook until tender. Add butter until it’s melted, then stir in the flour, chili powder, salt and cumin until blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheese and sour cream until melted.

3. Drain pasta; toss with sauce and heat through. Sprinkle each serving with reserved bacon.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.2.11

Once again, I'm late with the meal plan. Actually, though, I think I'm just going to start posting the plan on Mondays instead. As the weather gets warmer our weekends get more and more crammed with activities, and it's harder to find the time to post on Sundays.

Yesterday Will and I participated in the March of Dimes March for Babies, in support of my best friend and her sweet daughter who was born 13 weeks early. Here's my favorite picture from the day:

It's clear how much Will loves the March of Dimes! :)

Anyway, on to the meal plan. A couple of meals are carrying over from last week. Even though I swore I was going to make an effort to cook every night, that just didn't happen last week. I'm determined to be better this week!

Monday: Chicken with grapes and goat cheese, rice pilaf with spinach

Tuesday: Rosemary ranch chicken (check out the link -- I couldn't resist that post title!), fried potatoes, ranch-baked asparagus

Wednesday: Tortellini with pepperoni sauce, garlic bread. I was so beyond thrilled when Bravo posted Mike Isabella's pepperoni sauce recipe. Even though I wasn't Mike's biggest fan (the first time he was on the show, at least), that sauce made my mouth water, and I can't wait to try it.

Thursday: We'll be celebrating Cinco de Mayo with one of our favorite Mexican meals: Creamy baked chicken taquitos with creamy lime-cilantro dressing and Mexican sour cream rice. There will also be margaritas for the adults.

Friday: Herb and brie omelets with roasted potatoes and strawberries

Saturday: Smoked sausage pierogi bake

Sunday: It’s Mother’s Day, so I'm making the boys cook for me! ;)